Sportswriter Feels Talk of Moving Black QB Lamar Jackson to WR Is ‘Racially Coded’

AP Julie Jacobson
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Louisville’s Lamar Jackson is considered by some to be one of the better QB prospects in the 2018 NFL draft. However, others think he should switch to wide receiver due to concerns about his passing accuracy.

According to NFL Network’s Peter Schrager, some teams wanted to Jackson to test as a wide receiver at the scouting combine, but he refused.

Former NFL GM Bill Polian caused a stir in February when he said Jackson should switch to wide receiver.

“Clearly, clearly not the thrower that the other guys are,” Polian said on ESPN. “The accuracy isn’t there. I think wide receiver. Exceptional athlete, exceptional ability to make you miss, exceptional acceleration, exceptional instinct with the ball in his hand and that’s rare for wide receivers. That’s [Antonio Brown], and who else? Name me another one, Julio [Jones is] not even like that.”

Sportswriter Master Tesfatsion thinks talk of moving Jackson, who is African-American, to receiver, might be racially motivated.

Recently, Tesfatsion, who writes for Bleacher Report, wrote a column with the headline, Ditch the Racially Coded Language, Lamar Jackson Is No One’s Wide Receiver.

“It’s unfortunately a common development this time of year, when black quarterbacks seem to be held to a different standard than their white counterparts at one of the most important positions on the field. But the film don’t lie,” wrote Tasfatsion.

But Jackson’s film could be part of the problem. In January of 2017, an ACC coach, when asked about Clemson’s DeShaun Watson (now with the Houston Texans), anonymously told Sports Illustrated, “We played he and Lamar Jackson, and Jackson has no shot at playing quarterback in the NFL. None. He can’t make the throws and can’t read coverages. He’s not going to have a chance. Watson stands tall in the pocket and whips the ball around like Ben Roethlisberger.”

Watson had a great rookie year for the Texans before a season-ending knee injury. Watson is African-American, so it would be hard to call the ACC coach’s comments racist, because he raved about one black quarterback while questioning another.

Every year you read scouting reports criticizing quarterbacks who struggle with ball placement. This year is no different.

“Jackson’s accuracy is clearly spotty and teams must decide the level of accuracy they are willing to live with relative to his ability to create explosive plays,” wrote draft analyst Lance Zeierlein. “Jackson may need to operate in an offense ready to integrate RPOs (run/pass options) along with heavy play-action.”

Zeirlein also wrote that Jackson “makes targets work too hard” and “sails throws that can end up in hands of a safety.”

But Jackson is a fantastic athlete with a rocket arm and amazing scrambling ability, so Zeirlein’s colleague at, Mike Mayock, thinks you pick him high and design an offense around his natural gifts.

“The guy I’m most excited about is Lamar Jackson,” Mayock said. “He’s the most exciting athlete in the Draft. I think somebody in the first round is going to make a philosophical and schematic commitment to this kid and change what they do offensively. And it might not be this year where he makes a significant move, but I think long term, I can’t wait to see what Lamar Jackson becomes.”

While Jackson is a dynamic scrambler, some NFL executives think you can’t win NFL championships with quarterbacks who run around a lot.

“The bottom line is that I believe the one thing is that you’ve got to be able to win from the pocket,” Broncos GM John Elway said, not specifically talking about Jackson. “No matter what you do, I think the one thing that I’ve learned is as a quarterback you’ve got to be able to win it from the pocket. You can win games but you can’t win championships unless you have the ability to win it from the pocket.”

Polian thinks that that Jackson probably shouldn’t waste a lot of time on the quarterback thing, like Terrelle Pryor, a former Ohio State QB, now a New York Jets receiver.

“My advice to him would probably be to go to receiver right away because of the Terrelle Pryor experience,” Polian said on SiriusXM NFL Radio after receiving backlash for his initial comments. “Terrelle Pryor was Lamar Jackson in a much bigger body, but with the same skill set basically. Having said all of that, my opinion is one opinion. If Lamar wants to play quarterback, God bless him. He’ll be drafted. I hope he does well. I hope he has a great career. But I guarantee you he’s gonna be on the field carrying the ball in some way shape or form. I hope his body can hold up for his sake.”

Time will tell who is right on Jackson’s best position.

Follow Dan Leberfeld on Twitter @jetswhispers


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